Does Your Onboarding Suck? Here’s How To Make It Amazing

Danni FriedlandCustomer Success, Onboarding, Product Manager, User Experience, User testing1 Comment

A customer just signed up for your product and is giving you the chance to give him a good first impression. In that moment, you have to make sure you set their expectations high and communicate with them how your product can meet their goals.

Not only does the first impression need to be a smooth experience, it should also be engaging. If they signed up, tried out your product, and never came back, you lost them forever.

Designing a captivating onboarding process for your users is like asking a friend to leave what he is doing and join you for a crazy adventure. You have to present a convincing idea of where you’re going so he’ll want to buy a plane ticket and join the journey.

But that’s not it!

You might be halfway around the world and there is still a chance that your friend will want to bail out. Maybe he feels like going back home or decides he wants to take his own way. If your friend’s expectations are to learn about new cultures, and that was the main reason he decided to go on board, then you’ll want to meet new people along the way, learn how they think, how they live, taste different food, visit new places, etc… This is how he will stick with you throughout the entire journey and will probably want to do it again.

Same goes with onboarding a user.

When a user signs up for your product, user onboarding gets him to stay. Once they’ve adopted your product, you need to reassure they are on the right path to achieving their goals. This way they will keep coming back as active users.

Now, meeting their expectations in every step of the way is not easy and this doesn’t always go well. What if your onboarding sucks?!

That’s why we came up with some points that will help you recognize if your onboarding is not good enough and measures to optimize it.

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Before We Start: The Main Phases of Onboarding

Creating the right onboarding flow  depends on who is your audience and how well they know your product. Regardless, providing a good first impression is only the first out of the three onboarding stages:

a. Sign up and registration phase.

Onboarding is not just about the first impression, but it sure plays an important part of it when onboarding new users.

It’s the only chance you get to show the user that your product is worth it. The first impression must deliver value and the registration should go as smoothly as possible.

b. Adoption and Understanding of Your Core Feature/Product.

Help your users achieve what they came for intuitively. Canva does a great job educating new users with a 23-second video that emphasizes different buttons and features. It also followed by a fun tutorial of 4 quick design exercises so users can try it out for themselves.

It even shows how non-designers are also able to create beautiful designs.

c. They keep coming back.

You are notifying existing users about new features, helping them throughout the entire customer lifecycle and making it easy for them to embrace your product’s full potential. Now that we got that out of the way, here is what you should do to fix your onboarding process when it sucks.

1. Define the Onboarding Process

There are many elements of user onboarding and you need to make sure they are giving value to your users along the way. For basic onboarding optimization, you must identify the steps your customers need to go through to achieve success. You should have a specific goal, that correlates with a successful onboarding, and define the steps to get there.


Take a look at your own product’s process to find the leaks where users are dropping off.

Here’s a quick example. Let’s say you your product is an A/B Testing platform. Your goal is to make sure your users quickly learn how easy it is to use and decide to come back. to do so, you need to get your users to set up a test on their first login – that’s your goal.

So the onboarding process would be:

  1. User goes to landing page
  2. User signs up
  3. User goes to the dashboard
  4. User clicks on “New Test”
  5. User adds his website’s URL
  6. User clicks “Ok”
  7. User edits something
  8. User saves the experiment

This is the journey the user takes before he becomes an active, returning user.

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2. Identify any Problems They are Facing During the Onboarding Process.

After your onboarding is defined, you must track, gather data and pinpoint the issues that are causing your users to leave. You need to check your funnel/flow in your analytics tool and see where users drop off your onboarding process.

Which of the above steps made users give up?

If you want to dig deeper, there are three other prominent issues that indicate your onboarding is not ok:

a. High Churn Rate

If users are leaving, maybe they don’t trust your product or maybe they aren’t getting what they want. This is why you must show what your product does and deliver value as quickly as possible.

b. Low Average Time on Site

Check your Google Analytics to see how much time your users spend on your website. If it’s low, you probably aren’t delivering your product in the right way.

c. Users Asking for Support

The most noticeable factor indicating that your onboarding needs to be optimized is if your users are constantly asking for instructions. They should be able to follow the process intuitively in order to achieve what they want with your product.

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3. Dig Deep Into the Problems

You’ve defined the onboarding flow to familiarize your users with your product. However, that’s just the beginning. User onboarding is about retention – making your users come back over and over again – not about Acquisition. So in order to optimize user retention, not only do you need to identify the problems, you should also understand WHY they are no longer using your product.

User session recordings can help you identify the problems by watching how your users interact on your website and Jaco’s features will help you understand why:

Combine the Onboarding Data with Session Recordings

You have your funnel in front of you and you are looking at the users’ onboarding flow. You can obviously tell by looking at the data that there’s a huge dropoff on your welcome page (for example), but you have no clue what’s wrong with it – to you, it’s perfect.

You can use Jaco to track users that fit a similar pattern and analyze what made them leave on that same page. Filter users who got to the welcome page, or any page that has a huge dropoff rate. Watch the sessions of those users to find out where they get confused.

They are the ones that have trouble with your onboarding process and represent that huge drop you see in your analytics. After you pinpoint the issues, fix them and you’ll reduce friction in your onboarding process based on data AND by actually seeing where your users are having trouble.

Segment Frustrated Users

If there is a high bounce rate, there is a reason why your users are not happy with your product. Check out this method to easily detect frustrated users and find out what the issue was.

You can segment people who bounced in the process to learn what is the cause of the matter. For example, if they did rapid clicks, it might be that they were frustrated by a new feature. Or maybe they didn’t click on the CTA because it was in the bottom of the page and they didn’t scroll down – meaning content was not interesting enough.

Frustrated users don’t come back – reduce frustration and you’ll increase motivation and user retention.

Segment Users Who Asked for Support

Rapid clicks aren’t a perfect indicator of issues. Still, there’s one thing that guarantees a user is having trouble with the page/feature he’s on – Asking for support. If a user asks for support, it means they are finding the process to achieve what they need problematic. They shouldn’t need instructions because the process should be intuitive.

Create a segment in Jaco of people that click a CTA for support in order to identify where your users are getting lost and need help. You can segment users who clicked on the Intercom button or users who clicked on any specific button of your website. This will provide you with a targeted segment of sessions that have these 2 amazing characteristics:

  1. They had a serious issue with the user experience or with the product
  2. They need your solution so bad that they didn’t give up. They asked for help!

This means that even though your onboarding had a fatal flaw, these users are the perfect niche for your product because they didn’t give up.

These are the kind of sessions that you MUST watch. These are the kind of users you want to address and make sure they have a seamless onboarding. By helping them, you will optimize your product for the perfect target audience.

4. Avoid Onboarding Issues

Make sure you are providing quality user experience in each of the steps when defining the onboarding process.

Here are some tips:

a. Show off your best feature

Make sure you give your users a clear indication of what they can achieve with your product by climbing up the onboarding process. Set high expectations for users on your landing page and these expectations will quickly turn into an overpowering drive that will make them want to try it out.

Slack’s landing page clearly shows the benefit of their product.



And it even communicates a more specific description right below.



b. Make them feel comfortable using your product

Create a good first impression that will make them feel confident in becoming active users of your product. Make them feel safe by reducing frictional factors and increasing motivation. Slack does a great job at this by communicating that “it is free to use for as long as you want and with an unlimited number of people” right below a CTA.



c. Do not interrupt a user’s momentum

As the onboarding expert, Samuel Hulick says, those early minutes or hours when someone first signs up to your product is the time when there is the most momentum. Walking them through a tutorial right after they sign up wrecks that momentum.

Instead of a tutorial, Hulick suggests to provide features that will give them the chance to explore the product themselves, making it intuitive. LinkedIn’s “profile strength” meter motivates users to fill up their profile and continue using the system intuitively.


d. Shape a long lasting relationship

Make sure they become loyal customers by:

  • Supporting them in every step of the way
  • Providing a personalized experience
  • Notifying them about new features
  • Sending lifecycle emails

As a user books a hotel, Priceline sends them a follow up email with information on where to get a rental car or how to get another night in the hotel.

Now it’s easier for the user to continue using their product by having easy access to extra services.


In Conclusion

It’s not easy to have a successful onboarding process as it implies good user experience throughout the entire customer lifecycle, not just the registration phase.

You should make sure you design the right onboarding process that meets your customer’s expectations and track every step of the way in case issues come up. Learn where the issues are coming from to fix whatever is not right with your user experience.

Have any suggestions that have helped you throughout the onboarding process? Let us know in the comments!

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